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Social Media Influencers Displace Advertising

Visited by over two-thirds of the global online population, member communities -- which includes both social networks and blogs -- has become the fourth most popular online category, ahead of personal email.

It is growing twice as fast as any of the other four largest sectors (search, portals, PC software and email), according to the latest Nielsen market study.

About 67 percent of the global online population already accesses member community sites, and their increasing adoption show no sign of slowing. Social networking will continue to alter not just the global online landscape, but the consumer experience at large.

According to the Nielsen report, Facebook is visited monthly by three in every 10 people online across the nine markets in which Nielsen tracks social networking use. However, Orkut in Brazil has the largest domestic online reach (70 percent) of any social network in these markets.

The report provides insights into the changing size and composition of the global social networking audience, plus the increasing share of Internet time for which it accounts. The report also analyzes what advertisers and publishers can do to take advantage of the social network phenomenon.

However, other research studies already indicate that traditional advertising is often ignored by those using social networks. Moreover, trusted recommendations of products and services by individual social media influencers has displaced advertising as the most effective way to reach consumers.

Other findings of the study include:

- One in every 11 minutes online globally is accounted for by social network and blogging sites.

- The social network and blogging audience is becoming more diverse in terms of age: the biggest increase in visitors during 2008 to Web sites globally came from the 35-49 year old age group (+11.3 million people).

- Mobile phones are playing an increasingly important role in social networking. Nielsen found UK mobile Web users have the greatest propensity to visit a social network through their handset, with 23 percent (2 million people) doing so, compared to 19 percent in the U.S. (10.6 million people). These numbers are a big increase over last year -- up 249 percent in the UK and 156 percent in the U.S. market.

Update: Razorfish shared some insightful and thought provoking "Trends in Social Influence Marketing" for 2009, and beyond.

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